Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sharing Nugget #37

#37: Peer Helping is not just about helping!

A few fews ago, in my MGMT journal 2, I shared my encounter with my 'clients'.

To recall, I asked, “if you have to make one resolution this term, what will it be?” One answered, “To spend more memorable times with friends I cherish”. The other said, “To make this term even more meaningful than the summer”.

Well, I kind of did my part. They are now in the same CCA as mine, and we had a meaningful time together as friends. Also, I am helping the 2 of them in a project to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS. I helped them designed the posters and they were proud of it. In this sense, although I joined in the project because of both interest and involvement in CCA, their resolutions are being realized to a certain extent by me being there. (I hope!)

Upon reflection with the encounters with my clients, I learned that ‘help’ comes in many ways. I though it was a tall order to help fulfill their resolutions. But I discovered that it could be done. Also, I think it did well to my own mental and social health when helping these friends. Peer helping is healthy!

But on the other hand, these few weeks had been very hectic for me. I am neck deep in work, and can hardly breathe. In this time, there were a few friends who approached me to talk about their troubles. I attended to them, but kept it brief. (They were small issues anyway).

There was one case which was more serious. This year 1 SS girl wanted to meet up with me to talk about “something”. I found out it was quite urgent. However, it was a bad time for me as I had a difficult midterms the next day. But I remember the class where we learned about MSN helping. I probed more and tell her to share with me briefly. I made a decision to tell her honestly about my situation but I wanted to help her. It was a good move. She shared, (about her wanting to change school because of stress, desire for another course and lack of knowledge of what SS can offer), and I helped her see more. I also referred her to a prof who will be able to help her more in terms of academic advise.

She was grateful. Still, I apologise for not being able to meet her. I made an appointment with her after she talked to the prof.

I learned that sometimes, we might be very stretched, but we can still do something to help – however small it is. These few weeks really opened my eyes to peer helping and lose the stigma I have on it. That said, back to my assignments! Haiz. (I need to look for a peer helper to help me!)

This is a journal entry for my MGMT course.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sharing Nugget #36

#36: Intrinsic, not extrinsic motivation please.

This is an excerpt from an email from a friend. I think it is solid.

The Story of the 8 Monkeys

Put eight monkeys in a room. In the middle of the room is a ladder, leading to a bunch of bananas hanging from a hook on the ceiling.

Each time a monkey tries to climb the ladder, all the monkeys are sprayed with ice water, which makes them miserable. Soon enough, whenever a monkey attempts to climb the ladder, all of the othermonkeys, not wanting to be sprayed, set upon him and beat him up.

Soon, none of the eight monkeys ever attempts to climb the ladder.

Then one of the original monkeys is then removed, and a new monkey is put in the room. Seeing the bananas and the ladder, he wonders why none of the other monkeys are doing the obvious. But undaunted, he immediately begins to climb the ladder.

All the other monkeys fall upon him and beat him silly. He has no idea why. However, he no longer attempts to climb the ladder.

A second original monkey is removed and replaced. The newcomer again attempts to climb the ladder, but all the other monkeys hammer the crap out of him.

This includes the previous new monkey, who, grateful that he's not on the receiving end this time, participates in the beating because all the other monkeys are doing it. However, he has no idea why he's attacking the new monkey.

One by one, all the original monkeys are replaced. Eight new monkeys are now in the room. None of them have ever been sprayed by ice water.

None of them attempt to climb the ladder. All of them will enthusiastically beat up any new monkey who tries, without having any idea why.

Sounds familiar? Do for the sake of doing? Because it is "Company Policy"? Because it is "how we do things around here"? Is this why the phrase "thinking out of the box" is coined? Is the "box" the cubicle?

This story reminds me of the disease that encamps itself in a rigid hierarchical organization. This is a disease that is as ugly as power struggles and political games. In a rigid set-up, the monotony and the mundune drains the spirit. I have seen and heard too many cases. These people are boxed up in their comfort zones, are building fortresses that really keep themselves in rather than keep 'extra work' out, and are allowing the disease to consume their lives.

They are stuck in a vicious cycle: i am unhappy with work, i spend more on entertainment, so i need more money, then i have to work harder to get that promotion to earn more, then i am more unhappy, so i need even more money for entertainment, so... it goes on and on.

I pray I will never catch the disease. I pray I can do something I like as a living. I pray that my motivation will always come from within, not from external reward. So its intrinsic, not extrinsic motivation please.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sharing Nugget #35

#35: (Social Science Society team-building retreat): how it moved me.

Over the weekend, I conducted, with a fellow senior Claire, a team-building retreat for Social Science Society.

I planned and executed 4 activities for them. Wow, they really bonded. At the 2nd debrief, they were still at the phase where they were happy with not achieving the task. They feel that the process is more important. I had a hard time trying to convince them that they could have done so much more.

I discovered that their idea of team-building is more of bonding and process. But me and Claire knows that our activities can offer so much more. They have the chance to see for themselves what a high-performing team is like. And through challenges, they could achieve a high which comes after achieving a task. That high as a team is something no body can take away from them. And that high creates a level of bonding what no games can do for them.

However, I was not experienced enough to convince them at first. But luckily, Claire rescued me with an intervention, and it gave me some space to sort out my thoughts. And at the end of the 2nd debrief, I was able to help them see a misalignment of expectations, and the potential they have. I learnt that to do team-building and facilitation well, it takes experience and learning on the job.

I was hope that during the next day, they will be able to progress into the high. And true enough, they did it. They did very well. They applied the learnings, and their team spirit was very strong. They completed electric fence. The 10 of them did it in 2.24 minutes. Relatively, it is almost a record for SMU. (Still cannot beat the 4.04 minutes by a team of facis for AELC 2 of 20 people). But they hold the record for a team of 10!

During the final debrief, many of them told us that although at first, they were “sian” about the retreat. But after the team-building, they felt that it was all very worthwhile. I was touched. We did it. The Social Science team was a good team. And I hoped these are the ones who gets elected. It will do so much good for Social Science with such a team.

This retreat, and conducting a team-building session, is very rewarding. It is tiring, but it reminded me of the good times. I felt fulfilled. And I would love to do this again. Looking ahead, there is a senior faci and OSL staff meeting about the future of ExPLOR. This retreat will be a good example of how we SF can still contribute to the SMU community. I still want to do my part. And I am now more motivated to present our case.

My thoughts go out to those social science seniors and juniors who made up the team that was born during the retreat. Thank you for everything.

My favorite teams will always be the ones that have a group of friends who can depend on each other when it counts. We know we can get the task done, we know we are all here because of our passions, we know we will make a difference, and we know we have common experiences that no one can take away from us, and we know we can depend on each other. Hardoichi, SIFE Toronto team, SF and the few Social Science ex-cos were such teams.

Now, I hope I can add one more to that list: the 4th SCD council.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Sharing Nugget #34

#34: A reflection on marriage.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival people.

Today, I received an email in Chinese from a friend. Because it is so fallacious, it made me laugh. This is the translation. It is so like a homework for 'Analytical Skills'!

Human being = eat + sleep + go to work + play
Pig = eat + sleep
Human = Pig + go to work + play
Human – play = Pig + go to work.

Thus, A human that doesn’t play is a Pig that goes to work.

A Man = eat + sleep + make money for family
Pig = eat + sleep
A Man = Pig + make money for family
Pig = A Man - make money for family

Thus, a man that does not bring home the dough is a pig.

A Woman = eat + sleep + spend husband’s money
Pig = eat + sleep
A Woman = Pig + spend husband’s money
A Woman - spend husband’s money = Pig

Thus, a woman that doesn’t spend her husband’s money is a pig!

In conclusion:

If a man doesn’t want to wife to be a pig, make money for her to spend!

If a woman doesn’t want to husband to be a pig, then spend his money!

My goodness, hope my wife doesn’t see this. Haha.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sharing Nugget #33

#33: Peer helping II

The most significant part of my training to be a peer helper happened during the class the week before. We were doing role-playing. I was the client, and F was my client. She was given a scenario (which was unknown to me), and I am supposed to ‘peer help’. She was emotional and straightforward, and she ‘dumped’ information on me. Her thoughts were confused and wayward. And she asked for my advice just halfway through. The session was intense. But I survived. Now, I can reflect on it. Here are some things I learned.

Firstly, it is important to go into a helping session with no expectations in mind. I generalized that most clients will be reluctant to share. Thus, I might have to consciously listen and probe to find out more. No worries, I though, the counselor had taught us how to do that. But when the session started, F fired away. Her thoughts translated with bullet speed into speech – I struggled to process them. I had no notepad to write on (it was to simulate a conversation with friend). I was thrown off the tracks. She asked me for advise (which we are not supposed to give). I was stunned.

Secondly, it is important to take control of the session, and not be as lost as the client. We were supposed to practice paraphrasing. But I hardly have to. For a while, the pauses in the conversation were too long. I picked myself up, and tried to fight my way back into the land of credibility. I did it by asking questions to help me (and F) organize her thoughts. I took control. I set the pace. I was back in action after the initial fall. It was almost like writing an essay, where we ended off with a summary.

Thirdly, I learned how to help without giving advice. I learned in class that after a session, we need to explore the options the client has, and let the client make the choice. F and I discussed her options, and the consequences that come with it. I consciously reframed from adding opinion. I succeeded. It was a revelation to me. This point is especially poignant because for a while (in the real world), I thought I was losing a good friend because she is turned off by the way I injected opinion into our conversations. It sounded like advice. I realized that I had unconsciously let my senior facilitator persona spill over to my Renjie-as-friend persona. It made me look like a big brother who wants to tell the sister what to do. It was a difficult time. Thus, this session opened my eyes on how refraining from giving advise makes a difference.

Anyway, on a lighter note, the role-playing client revealed that if she make a certain decision, her “dad” will storm the school with a butcher knife. And she is insistent (or should I say: hell-bent) on that course of action. My reply was, “in this case, would you consider talking to the university counselor?” Thus, my fourth lesson was, peer helping has its limits. Sometimes, some people need professional help. Imagine watching Channel News Asia one early morning and seeing an angry father waving a butcher knife at the crowd.

Man, there is no hole deep enough for me to hide in!

This is a journal entry for my MGMT course.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sharing Nugget #32

#32: Aquascaping is Therapeutic Part II
Took some time off studying for mid-terms and when shopping for fishes, shrimps and plants.
Here is the accomplishment after a hard day's planning and work. (Yes, aquascapes needs planning)

The new scape. The tied up bunch of plants in the foreground will grow into the light green bush on middle right. It will carpet the whole bed in weeks time. It will be a glorious sight. Its quite tedious to do each wrap on a wire mesh. It is delicate work. But the patience needed to do it relaxes me and slows me down. Nice.
I added a total of 30 bumble bee shrimps to the tank. Not cheap. But they are beautiful. I cannot quite capture them grazing on the "grass", (I will keep trying), but I love it when they explores the place. Brillant. Here's one swimming fter the other! So cute.
Here's how they look like up close.
It was a great way to spend a relaxing weekend.
My wife and I were discussing that sitting together on the bus as it weaves through the quieter streets was nice way to spend some quiet time together. Usually, when there's a nice show, we will go catch it, and have a nice meal in town. But this traveling to aquarium shops from jalan kayu (reachable only by a nice stroll into the farmways), and then to balestier (best 2 shops in S'pore) was a break from the crowd that throngs town on weekends.
Man, I dislike crowded places. We were supposed to relax. Queueing, squeezing, waiting for crowded buses, withstanding the odors in such packed buses is the deal in S'pore. So today's traveling was a welcome breeze. We had a hearty meal in a heartland coffeshop, and we enjoyed ourselves.
One day when I have a car, (When I back in SAF), I will bring my wife to reserviors and beaches to relax. (I know some great picnic spots in pierce reservior etc which are only reachable by car). For now, we have to settle for something else.
We all need to consiously slow down regularly, catch our breaths, and live to fight another day. It was only an afternoon trip, but I was recharged and finished 2 chapters sitting in front of my refurbished tank.
It was a nice day.